Sailing to the Whitsundays

Saturday

We left magnetic island early, heading for Cape Upstart. With one motor running and a gentle northerly pushing us along, we made good time. We caught up with two monos around the shallow sand banks off Cape Bowling Green (got to love that name).

The wind had picked up at that stage and we had time up our sleeve, so off went the motors and we had a very pleasant sail into our anchorage for the night. The anchorage proved to be a bit rocky courtesy of the northerlies but quite okay none the less.

Next morning, another early start as we wanted to make it all the way to the whitsundays in one go. unfortunately, this meant missing Monte’s, which was a petty – especially after smiley’s rave reviews. But we are on a mission to get to sydney by the 14th and we need to make the most of the favorable northerlies.

again it was a lovely sail in the afternoon as the wind picked up. Rounding Gloucester island on the outside, the seas smoothed right out and we had one of those magical sails all the way to Nara inlet. As we got closer the number of yachts increased – a bit of a culture shock after sailing in such remote places.

Nara Inlet was as beautiful as ever. Flat calm with a beautiful sunset looking back down the inlet across to the mountains on the mainland. It was good to be back in one of the great cruising grounds in the world – albeit quite briefly.

After a leisurely morning for a change, we left Nara and headed for Hamilton for fuel, coffee and beer. Then it was off to Whitehaven Beach. However we as we got closer to Solway passage, we noticed an awful lot of boats in Chance Bay, including all the day tripper boats that you would expect to see at Whitehaven. The wind was picking up and by the time we got to Solway, it was obvious that this was not the day to visit Whitehaven. So back we went to Chance Bay, where we saw lots of people swimming without stinger suits. So we took a chance and had a quick Cas swim off the beach. Actually, we had three quick Cas swims.

Then it was back to the boat via strange looking object quite a way out in the water. It turned out to be one of those floating footies. As we scooped it up, we asked the guys on a 44 foot sunsail cat called Seduction if it was theirs and they said yes. They invited us on for a drink, only to find one of the day tripper boats go past and ask for their footy. The six guys on Seduction thought it was quite funny – I think Cas was a bit mortified. Anyway we ended up having a great night with them, six young guys having a ball on a boat. In between, I managed to go across to R&R who had just anchored next to us and have a chat.

Next morning, the effects of the previous night made for a slow morning, but we still managed to get away at 6.30am, on route to Scawfell Island.

A short, but sweet visit to the Whitsundays.

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In Search of a “La Mischief” Look-a-Like

Thursday 15th

We got up early and hopped on the 7.10 ferry from magnetic to Townsville. Then out to the airport to pick up the hire car. 300km later we hit Airlie Beach at midday and met Gilly from Vicsail on board R&R, a Lagoon 421 similar to La Mischief. It was nice to have a look at a real one than just the brochures and the www stuff.

We went through quite a bit of detailed stuff as well as admiring our soon to be boat, quite a step up from Camelot.

Then we had a quick bite with Gilly before she headed for the airport. The rest of the afternoon was spend lounging round the pool at the hotel and then off to Fish Devine and Rum Bar – an interesting combination that was recommended by the guys from Whitsunday Escape.

Next morning it was up early for breakfast, some bikini and thong (feet variety) shopping and then back to Townsville and then onto magnetic.

The afternoon was full of boat jobs – new toilet hose, fixed dingy harness and some cleaning. Then beer o’clock. Chris and Chris (one of the easiest couples names to remember) invited us back for drinks on their boat and we met a few locals who filled us in with some good local knowledge.

Then it was off to bed, ready for an early start so that we could make Cape Upstart in one day.

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Drawn to Magnetic

Cute, a little bit quirky, beautiful, not quite sure how to describe magnetic island. Our wild ride yesterday had given us a full day on magnetic as there was no way of getting a hire car on Wednesday – the day of the eclipse.

The first order of business was to get up early and go and see it – it being the eclipse. Cas opted for a sleep in so off I traipsed up the hill behind the marina to get a good view east to where the sun had just come up. Two school kids came up to join us before they caught the ferry to their mainland high school. I had a spare set of eclipse sun glasses so I gave one to them.

The eclipse was only 96% this far south, you needed to be at cairns/port Douglas to get the full eclipse but it was still pretty good. It went a bit dark and you could see all the sun being covered by the moon through the glasses. Getting a picture was a bit more difficult, even when the sun was totally obscured, there was still too much light for the camera to handle.

Next stop was the car hire place where we managed to secure “The Mercedes” for $40 a day. The Mercedes barely made it up the hills and had seen better days but it did the trick. We had 48kms for the day and given the island road was only 10kms long, this was fine. First stop was Horseshoe Bay where Smiley was anchored. We had a swim and a coffee with Magda and Stuart. We did a few of the other bays, as well as stopping off at Mitre 10, who surprisingly had all our boat parts that we needed, and a backpacker bar on the beach for a beer and a game of pool. Cas complained about the wind putting her off her game – excuses, excuses!!!

Then it was out again that night to one of the cultural events of the whole trip – Noel’s Cane Toad Racing at the Arcadia Hotel. When in Queensland, do as the Queenslanders do. The first step in cane toad racing is to bid for a toad, and then if it wins you get $50 and a T-Shirt. Provided you kiss the winner first. Thank goodness my toad didn’t win. The whole event raises money for a good cause.

Then it was back to the boat for a good nights sleep before driving to airlie beach the next day.

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Bashing our way across the Paddock

Monday 12th November

We had little pioneer bay all to ourselves as the wind picked up. Our plan was to stay there 3 nights waiting for the weather to die down on Wednesday.

Vicsail had rung up and said we couldn’t look at R&R in the few days we were planning to be in the Whitsundays, instead we had a 4 hour window on Thursday. So we figured we could drive down from Townsville (a mere 300kms) on Thursday morning and drive back on Friday. The problem with this cunning plan soon became apparent when we started to ring around for a hire car – there were none to be had because 50,000 visitors had descended on northern Queensland to stare at an eclipse.

Eventually we found one at a lessor known establishment and locked it in.

Then we found out Gilly from Vicsail was flying in on the Wednesday and leaving a few hours after we got there on Thursday. So Monday night we sat down, had another look at the weather and decided it can’t be that bad. So we decided to go a day early and head for Magnetic Island on Tuesday.

I’m sure there’s some saying somewhere out there on the internet that says “if you say it can’t be that bad then it will be!” Or worse!

It didn’t start off too bad as we had the one reef in the mail sail. The weather grib’s had the wind slightly lighter closer to the coast so that’s the tack we took. We found out later the locals refer to this as “the paddock” and they have their own horror stories about crossing it in a strong SE’er.

We went from reef 1 to reef 3 as the wind topped 30 knots and the shallow water (12m) made the waves stand up vertical with lovely deep, narrow gullies between them. Then the dingy support snapped – luckily there’s two separate wires on the back. I had to don life jacket and harness and hang upside down in the dingy to secure it with some rope.

At this stage, we decided to tack out to find some (slightly) deeper water. Cas had taken to watching movies so she didn’t have to watch what was coming over the front. This worked most of the time give or take the odd wave that made its way over the coach roof and onto the back deck.

After what seemed to be forever, tacking our way into the wind, we covered the 42nm to magnetic island. We ended up doing over 60nm with all the tacking we had to do.

We checked into the marina and headed for the bar. After a few margaritas, we decided it was a good experience and were quite chuffed with how the two of us had managed on the day. We had gained a lot of confidence in the two of us being able to handle the boat (and the next one) in all conditions – we’d put in the third reef and secured the dingy in a washing machine sea. I was very proud of the way Cas had come through it – hopefully we won’t have too many more days like it in our sailing life. Especially if we throw away the calendar.

Channelling it through Hinchinbrook

A bit behind on the blogs so time to catch up…..

Sunday 11th November

Leaving Dunk a bit worse for wear, we never the less made an early start and sailed off towards the entrance of Hinchinbrook channel at Cardwell. Across from dunk, we could see Mission Beach and my thoughts turned to Prasty who spent a bit of time living there when he left Perth.

We passed Cardwell and took down the sails as the SE was blowing right down the channel along with quite a strong current. A day to rely on the motors.

We’d heard all about the sand flies and mossies in the channel so our plan was to motor through in a day and enjoy the magnificent scenery without stopping long enough to get eaten.

The Hinchinbrook Channel is amazingly scenic with cloud covered mountains dropping down to the sea on both sides. There’s a maze of secondary channels going off in all directions creating vast areas of wetlands.

It took most of the day to get through the 26nm of channel to the southern end and had to weave our way through some narrow water at Lucinda, which had us navigating through a narrow passage right up against the jetty before turning out to sea and following a 3nm conveyor belt that delivers sugar to ships waiting way out to sea.

Finally rounding the end of the wharf, we set sail for Orpheus island, where we picked up a mooring at Little Pioneer Bay.

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Bollinger and Bananas

It was a big sail from Fitzroy to Dunk island, and we were up at 5am eager to knock off the 64nm. In the end we did it easily arriving around 3pm. It was a rainy overcast day but that seemed to make the stunning scenery even more dramatic.

We anchored up next to the wrecked jetty and hopped in the dingy and went over and saw Dick and his family from Moonshadow, a 58ft Tayana mono, who were travelling down the Queensland coast, after having just visited PNG. We both needed to get to the whitsundays fairly promptly so we compared notes on the weather and likely itineraries over a beer or two.

Then we headed into shore to check out what a cyclone can do to a resort when it’s in a particularly bad mood. Two years later the resort was a complete wreck. From a distance it didn’t look too bad but up close and personal it was a collection of twisted metal, smashed glass, roofs that had been torn away and rooms looking like they’d been subjected to an end of year footy trip involving Brendan Fevola and his mates.

On the way back to the boat we came across a couple of likely lads returning to the island in their tinny. They sorta invited themselves over to Camelot in an hour or so and wecagreed, keen to find out what was happening to the island.

After dinner, we decided that they weren’t coming and went to bed. Cas read and I went straight to sleep, only to be woken by Cas and then the sound of a dingy doing bog laps round our boats yelling quietly (that’s what you do when you are drunk) “Camelot, Camelot”. We quickly turned our reading light out thinking they would just go away – but it became obvious that this wasn’t going to happen when they started to plot how they were going to get the bananas they had brought us onto our boat. We gave in and welcomed them on board.

By welcome I mean fishing Dean out of the water as by this time he had fallen off the front of his tinny as he tried to get across to Camelot.

Safely on board – albeit a bit wet -we found out that Race (yes, his real name) was the ower, Peter Bond’s nephew and nominated caretaker of Dunk Island. dean was his mate up for a bit of a holiday and Mark was peter bond’s private pilot.

Now at this point I need to digress and point out Cas’ all time favorite quote is from Lily Bollinger who said

I only drink champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad.
Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone.
When I have company I consider it obligatory.
I trifle with it if I’m not in a hurry and drink it when I am, otherwise I never touch the stuff unless I am thirsty

.

Cas and I were talking about this with the girls from Melbourne cup and we decided we should really try and partake in some Bollinger champagne in honour of Lily.

And what do our likely lads bring with them but a bottle of the said Bollinger champagne. Champions.

Needless we had a great night and finally managed to kick the guys off the boat at around midnight. We were a bit worried about their ability to make it to shore safely so we watched them until they got to roughly where their boat trailer was. I’ll let Mark take up the rest of the story from here. To quote Mark’s email from the day after

Hi Steve and Carolyn

Thanks for your hospitality last night I hope you where both not to tired this morning.

When we got to the beach the tide was so low Race hit a bombey and tipped out Dean but of course we had to drag the boat in to get near the trailer and man handle it onto the trailer. Once on the trailer Race had backed into the mud too much and of course the tractor got bogged. We then had to get a loader to pull both tractor and trailer out. What a circus – the other 2 boys were really drunk so it was entertaining to say the least. Got to bed by 2am.

Thanks again and calm seas to you both.

Mark

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Au Natural at Fitzroy island

It was nice to drop anchor and reach for a Corona in a beautiful tropical bay. For a Friday night, it wasn’t too bad – maybe ten boats there – considering its the equivalent of Rottnest to Cairns folk. Mind you they have a lot of choice up here.

There looks like a few nice walks on the island – I had time for one so trod the well warn path across to Nudey Beach. Happy to report that there were no nudists there – unlike our rather close neighbor who proceeded to strip off, go for a swim and then cook a BBQ without bothering to don any clothing whatsoever.

We left them to it and hopped in the dingy and checked out the resort and the bar that was separate. The bar had a really nice tropical feel to it and we had a couple of drinks before heading back to the boat to eat diner on board – a bit of a novelty since Cas hit Cairns.

A couple more boats pulled in later that night. Interestingly one was “Champagne on Ice”, a Seawind 1160 I had hired in the Whitsundays whilst Camelot was being built. Last time I saw her, she pulled up next to Camelot at whithaven beach in 2008 when we were bringing Camelot around to Perth. Small world.

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